ARISE, SHINE FOR YOUR LIGHT IS COME (ISAIAH 60: 1)
(An extract of the Presidential Charge delivered by the Rt Revd Dr. James Olusola Odedeji, the Diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of Lagos State (Anglican Communion) at the 3rd Session of the 6th Diocesan Synod on Friday May 20, 2017 at Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria).
Our Diocesan theme for this year which is also God s Charge for us this year is “Arise, shine for your light has come” taken from Isaiah 60: 1. The prophet Isaiah wrote these words 700 years before Christ, but they are not his words, rather they are divinely inspired words of comfort and consolation from God s throne to God s people. It is to Israel in the Old Testament, to the Church in the New Testament and to the Church of today. God is saying to us this year regardless of the challenges confronting us here in our nation and the world as a whole that we should “Arise, and shine”, and he tells us the reason why, He says, “for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.”
The prophet Isaiah lived during that period of Old Testament history when the Israelite nation was divided into two kingdoms namely the northern and the southern kingdom. He lived in the southern kingdom, and prophesied during the reigns of kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He is popularly known and referred to as the evangelical prophet, on account of his numerous and full prophesies concerning the coming, the character, the ministry, the preaching, the sufferings and the death of the Messiah. Although the days in which Isaiah prophesied were not the darkest days in Judah, the days were extremely dark because of the menace of the formidable kingdom of Assyria in the north. The idolatrous lifestyle of the leaders coupled, with the level of wickedness and ungodliness in the land, made the captivity of the southern kingdom by the Babylonians to be inevitable. So like other prophets, some of whom were his contemporaries like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, a major part of God s words that he declared were words of confrontation, exhortation and warning. This of course were words that made him extremely unpopular, and got him into trouble on several occasion. But he was also privileged to deliver God s words of hope, comfort and promise to His people.
The book of prophet Isaiah addresses three different historical time period, which led some critical scholars to conclude that there are three different authors of the book. Internal evidence within the book of Isaiah itself points to one author - the prophet Isaiah.
In chapters 1-39 which represent the first historical period, the prophet delivered his message of condemnation to the 8th century Israelites, pronouncing judgment on their immoral and idolatrous lifestyles. In chapters 40 –55 which represent the second historical period, the prophet comforted the future generation of Jewish exiles, who thought that God had forgotten them. In chapters 56-66 which represent the third historical period, which is also the section from where the theme was taken, the prophet exhorted the Jews who had returned to the land. He encouraged them to put away negative vices such as greed, self-indulgence, idolatry, cynicism and hypocritical self-righteousness. He spoke concerning the complete restoration of Israel, the future appearance of the Messiah, the future joining of the Gentiles and Israel s godly remnant to collectively become God s people, and the ultimate triumph of good over evil.
The Word of God declared by the prophet in Isa. 60: 1 which says “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” (KJV), can be viewed in the following perspective:
a. It is a Charge to the returnee Jewish exiles, and by extension to all people of God today, to arise and take their rightful position in the society. It is a Charge to arise and to show forth the glory of God that is resident upon us as God s children.
b. It is a Charge to the Church of God to shake off lukewarmness, to free herself of all worldly tendencies, and all other entanglements, and to begin to shine as light in this dark world, which is one of the major reasons for the existence of the Church in this world.
c. It is a Charge to the new nation formed by these returnee exiles, and by extension our own nation – Nigeria. We are to arise, shake off every obstacle such as corruption, idolatry, immorality, injustice, tribalism, nepotism, poor leadership, mediocrity, religious intolerance, militancy, terrorism, and to take her rightful place as a godly, developed and successful nation, among the nations of the world.
To arise here means “to stand up”, “to get up from sleep”, “to get up after lying down”. To shine means “to give or reflect light”, “to beam with steady radiance”, “to glow”. To shine is to be attractive, to be desirable, to be different in the midst of darkness, to give illumination, to show direction, to be bright.
To “arise, and shine” therefore is to:
Stand up and move from obscurity to popularity, from irrelevance to relevance
Stand up and move from rejection to acceptance
Stand up and move away from a position of pity to a position of envy
Stand up and move away from being a problem to being a solution
Stand up and move away from being a question to becoming an answer
Stand up and begin to manifest the glory of God for all to see Stand up and beam the light of God upon the darkness of our nation, and of this world
Stand up and to take very firm stand against wickedness and all ungodly practices around us in our nation, and indeed the world at large.
As children of God, many of us have been lying down for long, some are even fast asleep, and the devil has had a field day in our lives, afflicting us with one problem after another, taking our rights away from us and holding us captive to his will. This lethargic state of the child of God has also taken its toll on the Church in our nation, and all over the world. It is on record that in the recent past the devil has been on rampage against the Church. In many nations all over the world, our country inclusive, Christians are being slaughtered like chicken. In our nation, thousands of our Christians brothers and sisters resident in the North have been victims of this barbaric act, and the government appears helpless in handling the situation. Till date, no one has been made to account for their wicked acts, and so the reign of impunity has continued, unabated. The solution to these problems is not in the hands of the government or any world leader, the solution lies with Christians. God through His word to the prophet Isaiah demands, that Christians all over the world arise as the light of the world which they are and begin to take their stand against all that is ungodly, begin to act based on their God-given authority. Only then can this ugly situation be effectively addressed and all the agents of darkness responsible for these problems be judged and punished accordingly. In Acts 12: 1 – 11, Herod arrested and killed James, and because believers failed to arise, he proceeded to arrest Peter and the same fate would have befallen Peter if not for the fact that the Church finally arose, and put to use their God given weapon of prayers. And immediately, Peter was released. God did not stop at that point, He proceeded further to stretch out His hands against Herod the tormentor of the Church at the time, and struck him dead. If the Church will arise to take her stand in Christ, no power of hell, no agent of darkness, no wicked scheme of men can, or will prevail against her.
God is not just asking us to arise and shine, neither does He expect that we will arise in our strength. The second part of the passage gives the reason and the motivation to arise and shine. It says “for your light has come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you”. When the light of God and the glory of God come upon the life of a man, the expectation of God is that such a life will rise and show forth that light. It will be quite unfortunate and disappointing to remain seated in darkness and in a state of spiritual inactivity, after receiving the light and the glory of God. Isa. 60: 2a, says “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people”. This passage is a clear revelation of the present state of our nation and indeed the world. To refuse to arise and shine for God therefore, after receiving His light and glory, can be regarded as act of wickedness which will surely attract adequate punishment from God.
OUR NATION MUST ARISE AND SHINE
Isa. 60: 2a gives a very fitting description of the state of things in our nation today, and indeed in the nations of the world. It says, “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people”. Darkness here does not refer to the darkness created due to power failure from the electricity providing companies. It is true that poor power supply is a major challenge in our country today, but this is not the darkness referred to here. The darkness referred to here is spiritual darkness which is created by the presence of sin. The further we move away from God, the further we journey into darkness and the thicker the darkness becomes. Over the years, there has consistently been a downward slide away from God and this has led us as a nation on a journey further and further into darkness. Our nation is engulfed in thick darkness, and we are all just groping around in the dark, not knowing where we are going, or which path is the right path to take. Even when we know the right way to go, we keep wandering off the path and getting lost because there seems to be a lack of will on the path of our leaders to lead by example and to do what is right. The present government came onboard with a resolve to right the wrongs of the past government and so adopted the “change” mantra. Unfortunately it is very clear that whatever it is they are doing to bring about this desired change is yet to yield the desired results. What we see so far is further increase in the level of hardship and poverty in the land. Many of the state governors are unable to pay salaries to their workers; this has reduced the purchasing power of the people with its resultant impact on market men and women since government remains the highest employer of labor in the land.
The heart of the people themselves is in “deep darkness” and this has led to all sorts of wicked and evil practices in the land. Kidnapping has now become the order of the day as no one is exempted. Child molestation and child abuse is on the increase. We now have increased incidences of men and women in the society who will sexually abuse even their own children. The Boko-Haram threat seemed to be abating only for it to be replaced with the menace of Fulani herdsmen who have become a threat to life and property in all parts of the country. The Church has not been spared in all of this. The persecution of Christians in the North continued unabated, the latest being the unjust and wicked massacre of the people of southern Kaduna, an area populated majorly by Christians. This genocidal attack has traces of an attempt to either wipe out, or to seriously deplete the Christian population in this part of the country. Nigeria is a secular nation where all citizens are entitled to freedom of religion. It is therefore very disturbing that according to an international Christian organization that monitors persecution of Christians in nations all over the world, Nigeria is ranked number 12 on the list of the top 50 nations where Christians are persecuted!
There is no doubt whatsoever that there is so much darkness in the land, this thick darkness is the reason why our nation has failed to live up to its potentials despite its rich blessings in human, material and natural resources. Nigeria is plagued with so much violence, senseless killings and destruction of properties. This thick darkness is the reason why our nation appears to be jinxed under the yoke of bad leadership. This thick darkness, if not checked, is fast leading the nation to become a failed state, and threatens further to split the nation along tribal and religious lines.
This of course is not God s intention for our Nigeria, a nation blessed by God with human and natural resources. Nigerians all over the world are taking giant strides in their fields of endeavor, ruling their world, making a name for themselves, and by extension making us proud as Nigerians. It is therefore time to arise out of this lethargic state and begin to take necessary steps to effectively harness God s rich resources which He has so generously bestowed upon us. With that we can come out of obscurity to take our rightful position among the league of successful nations of the world.
STEPS FOR OUR NATION TO ARISE AND SHINE
a. We must collectively repent of all ungodly practices and return to God. Nineveh was at one time in a terrible state like our nation, and was headed for certain destruction. God however sent prophet Jonah to them who preached regarding the destruction that was to come on them as a result of their sinful lifestyle. In Jonah 3: 5ff the Bible says that the people of Nineveh repented of their sinful ways, declared a fast, and cried unto God for mercy; and the Lord heard their cry, healed their land and turned the wind of destruction away from the land. If we also will do the same, the Lord will heal our land, move us away from the path of destruction, and lift us to a place of glory from where we will be able to shine for the world to see.
b. We all must take pride in our nation and pray for her always. 1 Tim. 2: 1-2, says that prayers, supplications, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all that are in authority, this is the way by which we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. It is very important that as Nigerians, we develop a true sense of patriotism for our country and delight in its prosperity. The body of Christ in Nigeria has to understand that, as the light of the world and the salt of the earth, it is part of our responsibility to unite in our prayers for Nigeria.
c. The reign of mediocrity and incompetence must end. Government at all levels, and indeed organizations both in the public and private sectors, must celebrate and embrace excellence; they must learn to put square pegs in square holes. Lopsidedness in appointments and appointments based on political sentiments, and not on professional competence must be avoided.
d. There must be transparency and accountability at all levels of government. Any responsible government that means well for her people must show accountability. Governance in Nigeria must not be an exception if we desire our nation to rise and shine.
e. There must be just and clear punishment for crimes committed to serve as deterrent to others. One of our problems as a nation is that there is so much crime and injustice in the land, yet we hardly see or hear of anybody being punished for these offences. The Bible says in Eccl. 8: 11 that, “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
THE CHURCH OF GOD MUST ARISE AND SHINE
This darkness referred to in Isa. 60: 2a has also found its way into the Church of God. Due to carelessness and lack of watchfulness, the devil has been able to successfully penetrate the Church, and has deployed some dangerous instruments with which he has been able to hold her down, and prevented her from rising to shine. These instruments have been so effective against the Church as against what was obtainable in the era of our old Church fathers.
To enable the Church arise and shine, it is important that these satanic instruments be identified, so that proper and effective actions will be taken against them. The instruments include the following:
a. Past glory – Christianity has come a long way to become what it is today. God, through the ages, worked through faithful men to further the spread of the Christian faith all over the world. It is their efforts, assisted by God s grace, that has brought Christianity to the place of prominence that it enjoys today. All through the ages, the spread of Christianity had always attracted affliction and hardship. But faithful men of God, through prayer and aggressive evangelism, saw to the growth of Christianity. Many of them even layed down their lives for this very noble cause. Today s generation of Christians are still basking in the euphoria of the great success achieved by the founding fathers of faith in the past; and seems to have forgotten that the same amount of effort, if not more, will be required to sustain the growth of Christianity. The Church has dwelt so much in the past to the point that, the growth and sustenance of Christianity has been taken for granted. This attitude has led to the fall of Christianity in some nations of the world, and the Church of God in Nigeria, if it will not suffer a similar fate, must understand that the past is history. We also, like our fathers of old, must serve the Lord faithfully, passionately and be fully committed to God, watching unto prayer (Mark 13: 37), if we desire to see sustenance and further growth of Christianity in our time. We must take seriously God s advice to us through the prophet Isaiah in Isa. 43: 18-19,
“Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing“. Apostle Paul re-echoed this godly counsel using his own life as an example when he said “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3: 13-14). We must desire and labour, that we may see in our time this new thing that God desires to accomplish in the world through His church.
b. The fear of man – Another instrument that the devil has found very useful to hold the Church down and to hinder her is the fear of man. The Bible states clearly that the fear of man brings a snare and the Church is already entangled in this snare. The Church belongs to God, however, events as we see them unfold give the impression that the Church is no longer of God, but the church of man. Churches appear more eager to please men now, particularly people in authority and people who are well positioned in the society, rather than please God. Many of our leaders in government are Christians, and most of them worship in one Church or the other. In 1 Tim. 3: 15, Apostle Paul described the Church of God as the house of God and the pillar of truth. But how much truth can we get in our Churches today? How much truth comes from the pulpit? As far as God is concerned, partial obedience is the same as disobedience, and this was what got king Saul into trouble with God, and eventually he lost his throne (1 Sam. 15: 8-23). The Church of God in Nigeria world has suffered a lot of humiliation and ridicule, because religious leaders even when they try to obey God only obey Him partially. To regain her lost glory and to arise and shine, she must be committed to completely doing the will of God without concern for those who may be offended. Total commitment to obeying God will definitely attract opposition from men, but such opposition will not last forever. When they begin to see the church shining and radiant to the glory of God they will have no option but to surrender to come to the light of God. As the Bible says in Isa. 60: 3, “The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.”
Furthermore, the fear of man could be in respect to keeping quiet in the face of obvious injustice and ungodly practices on the part of the leadership, whether at local, state or federal level in the land, so as not to ruffle feathers.. This does not imply that men should not be respected, honored or celebrated. The Bible enjoins us as Christians to “honor all men” (1 Pet. 2: 17a), we just need to be careful that the honor and respect we give to men, as the Church of God does not lead us along the path of disobedience to God s Word.
The Church of God, in this end time, if she must rise and shine, will need to be bold and strong. She will need to break free from the fear of man and then step out confidently in the power of the Holy Spirit to seek God s will, and to serve God without respect of persons.
Entanglement with sin - There is no doubt about that sin has greatly impacted negatively the growth of the Church. Today, she is guilty of the sins of omission and commission. Sins of omission are things that we should have done that we have failed to do. For example the Church should be seriously committed to prayers, for our leaders in government at all levels, for peace in our nation, for righteousness and justice to reign in our nation, for corruption to lose its stronghold, for the light of the gospel to shine to, for terrorism, militancy, kidnapping and all other evil vices to be checkmated, for good and godly leadership, and for God to heal our nation economically, educationally, financially, politically and in all other areas. We can go on and on, but these are just a few of the areas where the prayer of the Church is required. God, through the Apostle Paul in 1 Tim. 2: 1 – 3, commanded saying “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour”.
If the Church had effectively engaged the weapon of prayer as she should, many of the problems we are struggling with today may not have seen the light of day, or may not have lingered long as they did.
Another sin of omission of the church is that the Church has been unable to live above board in the area of holiness and righteous living, and so she has not been able to challenge those outside to do same. She should in all things, be an example “of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say….” (Titus 2: 7-8).
Also the Church has failed to show adequate concern for the needy, and to reach out to them in love by providing for them and bringing them into fellowship with Christ. Failure of the church in this regard implies that the church has failed in fulfilling one of the major reasons for her existence. Bible said concerning Jesus that “he went about doing and healing all that were oppressed of the devil for God was with him“ (Acts 10: 38). On more than one occasion we saw Jesus while He was on earth feed thousands of those who came to listen to Him, out of compassion for their helpless condition, the church of God today is not expected to do anything less than this.
Apart from the sin of omission, the church is also guilty of the sin of commission, and the sins of commission are things that we did that we should not have done as the church of God. An example of this is that income in many Churches today are being spent on things that are less important while important things are left unattended to. Churches today appear to be in a competition to determine who has the largest and the most beautiful church building. The money that could have been spent to support missionaries and evangelical outreaches is being lavished on building projects that are not really necessary. Many Churches today have become glorified theaters and entertainment halls, where emphasis is placed more on entertaining the people with comedy and other things necessary to sustain their patronage. The genuine preaching of the Word of God has been relegated to the background, so as not to scare away the congregation. A lot of strange practices and doctrines that have no basis in the word of God have been brought into the Church of God today. The reputation of the Church has been spoilt to some point, and she has lost her respect and self-esteem before the world.
It is very clear that if the Church is to rise out of the darkness that has surrounded her and shine according to God s word then she must free herself from the entanglement of sin and begin to live right.
Complacency – To be complacent is to be self – satisfied, without any intention, purpose or intention to move forward to a higher and more glorious level. To be complacent is to be satisfied with one s condition and situation such that there is no motivation to be better. Complacency is one of the reasons why the church has failed to arise and shine. Church activities and programs have become routine. There appears to be this sense of satisfaction with our present level of accomplishment and so there is no vigorous drive for improved performance. Rather than take dwindling attendance of members at services and programs as a wakeup call from God to improve on our evangelical activities and programs, we give excuses, sighting industrialization, modernization, economic hardship and so on as reasons for dwindling attendance. Is the church of God today operating at the same level that the early Church operated? Especially when you compare the zeal and deep commitment to evangelism, the manifestation and move of the power of God with the occurrence of signs and wonder as evidence. If we must be honest the answer to that question is “No”. Why is this so? Has God changed? Has He reduced in power and influence? Definitely not, the problem is that the Church seems to lack the hunger to rise above its present level, and so God is unable to lift her to the greater height where she should be operating. To rise and shine, she will need to first deliver herself from complacency today. Complacency will relegate its victims to the back seat of life and rob them of their place or position of prominence. In Matt. 20: 16a, Jesus said, “So the last will be first, and the first last”. We must take these words of Jesus seriously so that they will not be fulfilled in the life of the Church.
Limiting God – The Church of God has access to the power of God and there is no limit to what God can do through His church, provided she will take the Word of God seriously and stay faithful and obedient to it. The Church to the world may look ordinary, but God has chosen to do extraordinary things through her. She may be considered to be weak and incapable, but God has chosen to make His strength perfect in her weakness. All the Church needs to do is yield herself to God as a willing vessel. She must stop questioning and must begin believing God and in return God will enrich her with grace and power to do great exploits and to do the unusual. Today the church limits the power of God through unbelief, which has not allowed the church to take God at His word as she should. The people of Israel despite the manifestation of God s presence and despite His mighty acts of deliverance while they were journeying through the wilderness still limited God several times on several occasion through unbelief and they paid dearly for it. Concerning them, the psalmist in Psalm 78: 41 said, “Yes, again and again they tempted God, And limited the Holy One of Israel”. The church of God therefore will have to break away from the path of unbelief and begin to walk the path of faith and confidence in God.
Also the Church limits the power of God today by walking and acting in the flesh, rather than walking in the spirit. She should be spiritually inclined and so must learn to walk in the spirit and war in the spirit. The Bible says that God has used the things considered as foolish by the flesh to surprise and confuse the wise and the mighty so that no flesh may glory in His sight (1 Cor. 1: 27-28). Church activities and businesses must be conducted according to God s kingdom principles, and not the principles of men, the church should not be found to be involved in any form of corrupt practices, she must be above board in all her dealings rather than limit God by going into ungodly compromises with men just for the purpose of attracting favor, support and patronage. It is on record that Jesus was unable to perform much miracle in His hometown because of their unbelief. The familiarity of the people of His hometown with Him and his family members led to unbelief which prevented them from deriving maximum benefits from the anointing upon His life. We also learn from the story of Achan in Joshua 7: 1-26 that disobedience to Godly instructions will also limit the move of God s power. It was only after the accursed things were removed from the camp of the Israelites that God s power was restored. In order to rise and shine therefore, the Church must identify and turn away from all acts capable of limiting the move of God s power, all accursed things and abominable practices must be taken out of the way. May the Lord empower His church with sufficient grace to do all that is needful in this regard in Jesus name.
YOU MUST ARISE AND SHINE
Individually every child of God must purpose in his heart to arise and shine. The bible says that “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves” (Rom. 8: 22-23). These are not the best of times in our country, times are hard, businesses are struggling to survive with many of them folding up, cost of basic needs and necessities for human survival is on the increase, yet salary is not increasing. Many states and private businesses are unable to pay salaries to their workers. Christians are not insulated or isolated from these problems; they are in it together with others, who are still outside the Christian faith. The consolation for Christians however, is that there is hope, because our God is more than able take care of us and to meet our needs. He has promised to be there for us in the day of trouble. He says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you” (Isa. 50: 15). So surrounded by dark clouds of problem so thick that we can hardly see through, the child of God must arise with the help of God out of that state of despair, discouragement, and hopelessness, to shine for God. Every Christian has the potential to shine because as the Bible says in Col. 1: 27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory”, Christ in the life of Christians is the light of the world and so for the Christian who knows his identity in Christ; darkness must and will always give way for the light of God to manifest. It should be noted however, that the call to arise is a call to action. You cannot remain dormant, inactive or lukewarm and then expect to shine for God. The prodigal son, when he came to his senses said “I will arise and go to my father….” (Luke 15: 18). You also must take that step of faith to rise out of your backslidden state, out of your sinful state, out of irrelevance, out of obscurity. This is a necessary first step that will lead you into the victory that God has planned for you.
The relevant question here will be “how can I rise and shine”? In order to rise and shine the following steps are necessary:
a. Develop the desire - In order for anyone to rise and shine, such a person must first have identified the need to do so. Those who for instance are satisfied with the situation of things in their life will not see the need to rise and shine. Some are not necessarily satisfied with their conditions, but unfortunately they do not believe that their situation can be better. They have given up on life and are prepared to manage their situation for life; such people will find it difficult to rise. A good example was the lame man that laid daily at the gate of the temple whose story is recorded in Acts 3: 1ff. This man had come to accept his condition and was contented with begging for money, he never expected that he will rise and claim victory over his condition. So, when Peter met with him and commanded him to rise in the name of Jesus, the command was probably difficult for him to believe, and so Peter had to take him by the hand to lift him up. Some believe that they are already successful and are satisfied with their level of success, they do not know what else God can do for them, the truth however is that whatever level of success we occupy presently as long as we are alive, God can do much more than that. He can take us higher and actually desires that we go higher. To rise and shine for God therefore, there must be the desire for success or greater success, we must understand that God always has something much better than what we have presently and we should desire to possess these our possessions.
b. Look up to the Lord – The help to rise and shine, can never come from man no matter his position in life. Psalm 75: 6 says that lifting does not come from east, the west or the south but from God and so God is the source. To turn to God is to repent of the life of sin and accept him as Lord and Savior for those who are yet to do so. To go to God is to turn to his word to receive godly instruction on what he requires in order for you to rise and shine. The Psalmist, for instance, in Psalm 1 tells us what we need to do in other to enjoy God s favor and prosperity. To meet with God therefore, is to meet Him in His Word. The Word of God is God s commitment to his people, the Word of God is the will of God, the Word of God is the power of God. If you must rise and shine, then you must encounter the Word of God. Jacob, after spending 20 years serving Laban still appeared to lack the courage to leave him though he wanted to, until the Lord said to him" Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you." (Gen. 31: 3). Even then, he still lacked courage to inform Laban of his departure, and so had to run away without telling him. Laban pursued him, caught up with him, and would have hurt him, but because his escape was in obedience to God s Word. God took it upon Himself to rescue him from the hand of Laban. There is therefore the need for anyone, who desires to rise and shine to search the Scriptures either for himself or listen to the Word of God, and receive it by faith. The Word of God never fails, whatever promises He has made to his children, He will surely fulfill. The Bible in James 1: 17 says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”, that also includes the grace to rise and shine, such grace does not come from men, it comes from above and so to receive this grace you must look up to God.
c. Walk in faith – Faith is that very important attribute compulsory in the life of whoever desires to walk with God. Heb. 11: 6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Heb. 11: 1 defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” In other words a life of faith in God demands that we believe before we see, which is contrary to the stand of the world which demands that we see before we believe. True Christians however without any doubt know that when it comes to walking with God, we need to believe before we see, this is the only way as stated in Scriptures that we can receive blessings from God. Jesus himself said in John 11: 40, that we will need to believe first before we see the glory or the salvation of God. This is the way to be saved from sin and to become born again; and the necessary step we must take to receive other blessings from God. To rise and shine therefore, it is necessary and compulsory to walk with God in faith, because there is no other acceptable way by which we can walk with God.
Faith makes the impossible possible, faith turns hopeless situation around for good, so with faith in God and a willingness to act in faith, there is hope for the downtrodden, the non-achievers, the helpless, the rejected, the oppressed and all people regardless of their situation to arise and shine. Sarah and Elizabeth at a time when they thought it was no longer possible for them be fruitful, God made it happen, Lazarus had been dead for four days and buried, but at the command of Jesus, the four day old corpse came back to life and so for those who will place their faith in God, the evil conclusion concerning their lives will not stand, God will always have the final word. Through prayer faith is translated to desired result. Faith in God to rise and shine will lead the Christian to call upon God in prayer for desired breakthrough to manifest.
d. Take steps of faith which includes the following:
• Believe that God has what it takes to make you rise and shine
• Believe that he is willing to make you rise and shine
• Transform your thinking and your confession; let your thinking and confession match with your belief.
• Arise out of inaction, let your faith in God move you to begin to move in opposite direction to the fear and the seeming impossibilities in your life. See, with the eyes of faith, your desired breakthrough and take action by walking towards it.
e. Be determined – It takes determination to arise and it is faith in God that will produce the required determination to arise despite all obstacles that will seek to make it difficult or impossible to do so. These obstacles in some case can be in the form of discouragement from neighbors, relatives and friends. Sometimes you will need to move in opposition to the crowd. For example, blind Bartimaeus had to overcome discouragement from the crowd surrounding Jesus in order to get Jesus attention and receive his healing (Mark 10: 46-52). But for the fact that he had faith that Jesus can heal him of his blindness, he would not have made the effort and he would have remained in his pitiable condition. The desire to arise and shine may attract criticisms, victimization or intimidation even from unexpected quarters like family members, church members or society members, these are part of the reasons why you will need to be determined, do not expect everybody to support or cooperate with you, the devil may even arrange for some people to come against you. In all of this, discouragement must not be allowed to set in or else the desire to arise will be frustrated.
f. Connect with the power of God – It is very important to note that no one can by his power or strength arise and shine, like the bible says in 1 Sam. 2: 9, “by strength shall no man prevail”. Only the power of God makes it possible to arise and shine. It was the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, making it impossible for death to be able to hold him captive in the grave. Anyone that desires to rise and shine, therefore, must link up with this power. The Apostle Paul in Eph. 5: 14, said “Awake thou that sleepest, arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light”. This however can only be accomplished when connection is made with the power of God. How then do we connect with the power of God? Connection with the power of God is made through faith in the word of God and prayer. The word of God has gone forth giving a clear instruction for you to arise and shine, your faith in that word will fuel prayer in your life. You begin to call upon the Lord to fulfill His word in your life, you do not want to remain in obscurity anymore, and you do not desire to remain irrelevant anymore. You pray and continue to pray until your desired change comes to manifestation (Job 14: 14).
g. Make positive declaration – Finally, you must confess very boldly and clearly what you want God to do. You must be very clear in your mind what you are expecting, after which you declare your expectations confidently and consistently until it comes to manifestation. There is tremendous power in faith based scripturally sound confessions. It is often said and rightly so too that “Confession brings possession”. Your continual and consistent confession releases divine power which gives life and ability to the words you are saying to come to manifestation. In Isa. 43: 26, God said, “Declare thou, that thou mayest be justified”, Jesus re-echoed the same thing in Matt. 12: 37 when He said, “For by thy words thou shall be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned”. So you should take seriously the things you say, make sure that it agrees with what you desire so that you will not end up getting what you do not desire. As you boldly confess your desire and expectations, challenge or speak against mountains of hindrances that stand in the way of your rising, remember the words of Jesus in Matt. 21: 21 which says “…if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, Be removed and be cast into the sea, it will be done."Therefore go ahead and speak your way to your breakthrough, speak to unleash upon your life that power of God that will cause you to arise and shine. May the world declare the testimony of your rising and shining this year in Jesus name. Amen.